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Scott Walker’s recent album Bish Bosch is on high rotate in our house at present. Well, high rotate might be an overstatement, but we talk about it a lot. Bish Bosch is uneasy listening. It demands you hear it. It’s not what you put on for background at a dinner party. I like that about it. I really dislike ‘background music’. Either you listen to music or you don’t. Here’s ‘Epizootics!’

(An aside – I really hate music playing in cafes and restaurants. I think that you should hear the clatter of the kitchen, the gas firing up, and the talk of other patrons. A restaurant is not a film that needs a score – or – a restaurant is a film that is scored by talk, gas firing, plates smashing – that’s a restaurant’s music.)

But back to Bish Bosch. Is it art? Is it bullshit? Why is it? How does Scott Walker make a living? (house painting, sometimes, apparently) Is listening to Scott Walker like when the first non-Chinese listeners heard Chinese opera?

Yes, Bish Bosch makes for conversation, feedback. When our friend Jeremy played it on RNZ’s Nine to Noon, he got listener feedback. Listeners were offended that an institution such as Radio New Zealand could be playing such noise.

It’s exciting music. Not in a way that makes me want to dance or sing, but it forces me to think of sound in an entirely new way. There’s an exquisite darkness about it. The music confronts despair, violence, love, mice, ‘the wind drone across skull goblets’ (from SDSS 1416+13B Zercon, a flagpole sitter). Sometimes it sounds like it’s the last piece of music on earth, a sound heard across the apocalyptic sands. And yet, and yet! It’s funny and life-affirming. Why is this? Why so life-affirming?

Walker says in this Guardian interview that his music is a longing. A howl in the night. To make a sound that sounds like longing. What art.

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